Creating Your Own Wisdom Journal

Putting thoughts down in a journal is a useful leadership exercise. When doing so, it is important to include more than what is happening now but also what could go wrong.

This kind of journaling is revealed with the publication of “The Godfather Notebook” that director Francis Ford Coppola kept while making this iconic film. As revealed in an interview with Terry Gross on NPR’s “Fresh Air,” Coppola used the notebook to record his thoughts on the meaning, intention and pitfalls of every scene.

Film directors are leaders on the set. Good ones plan every scene in advance so that they can capture the spirit of the script on screen creatively as well as efficiently.

Management is something like that. Executives are bombarded with many details at any given moment. They must focus with clarity on what is important so they can keep projects on task and on budget.

Organize your thoughts in advance. It will prepare you to take action, be it talking to your team or finding additional resources.

The challenge is to make time to think and document your thoughts as words, pictures or diagrams.

Journaling will sharpen your thinking and, in turn, focus on your leadership on what’s most important.

First posted on SmartBrief.com 10/15/2017

Managers Need to Have a Strong Heart

“If you want to manage more effectively, you need to be present and accountable.”

That adage gets to the heart of a key theme of “Kitchen Confidential,” Anthony Bourdain’s memoir about learning to cook and learning to manage a kitchen, sometimes effectively and sometimes disastrously.

Here are a few lessons that translate well to management in any field — food or sport or even government.

  • Know your trade. A chef prepares the day in advance and stays on his feet much of the day. One mistake and you will disappoint some diner.
  • Know what your people expect of you. Restaurants make headlines due to the chef. They stay in business to the hard work of everyone in the operation, from the general manager to the busboy and dishwasher.
  • Know that your mistakes are opportunities to learn. Be humble when you screw up. Learn from the good example as well as successful operations of others. Pay attention and learn from the best people around you.
  • Know the risks. You must love what you do, but you must also surround yourself with people better and more capable than yourself.

Learning management from the example of others is no shortcut to the top, but when you pay attention to people who have paid their dues, you may save yourself a step or two on the ladder to your success.

First posted on SmartBrief.com 9/15/2017

Thinking Positively of Others

What’s the secret to a long-term relationship?

“Overlooking the negative and focusing on the positive,” says Helen Fisher, a best-selling author on relationships and a fellow at the Kinsey Institute.

Speaking on “The Diane Rehm Show,” Fisher says that brain scans of couples averaging 20 years revealed the parts of the brain that were active were those linked to empathy, self-control, and an ability to overlook negative, that is, “positive illusions.”

Maintaining “positive illusions” is an outlook that leaders can employ.

Leaders should look on bright side as a means of giving people hope. By nature such hope is rooted in a leader’s faith in his or her followers. It is an affirmation therefore of people for whom the leader is responsible.

None of us is perfect and everyone will, from time to time, do stupid things. Better then to assume the better nature of an individual who reports to you.

When a leader finds something negative, and which threatens organizational harmony, it is time to become involved. Dissent over issues is a positive; it encourages freedom of thought. Dissension over people that undermines the effectiveness of a leader cannot be tolerated.

A leader who can put aside petty slights in order to achieve intended goals is worthy of respect and followership.

First posted on SmartBrief.com 9/01/2017

3 Tips for Discovering Yourself

It is necessary to know what you are and what you can do. Sounds simple, but too often we don’t take the time – or, more precisely – make the time to understand our role.

In my coaching practice I work with executives to help them define their leadership selves. Here are three questions that can help you, too.

  • What do I do well? Consider your core competency — what you do for your job. Then think about the skills you execute to complete your job duties. Beyond competency consider how you interact with people.
  • Where do I need help and why? Tough question, certainly. How well do you serve your team? Think about what you may be avoiding because you don’t want to do it, don’t like to do it, or feel incompetent in doing it?
  • How can I better serve my colleagues? Focus on what other people need from you. Are you fulfilling their needs? It doesn’t hurt, and in fact, it may be wise to check what you think you are with what others are receiving? Is there alignment?

These questions are thought-starters; they serve as a means to an end of discovering what you do best and how you can continue to do it.

First posted on SmartBrief.com 8/11/2017

VIDEO: Two Giants Who Walked Softly

One was called Mr. Hockey. The other they called the King.

Gordie Howe and Arnold Palmer

Each was the best of their era, as well as the best of men.

Gordie Howe  played 25 seasons in the NHL more than any other player. Big and tough as well as graceful, Howe scored more goals and assists than anyone in his time and served as the game’s greatest ambassador and one of its most beloved characters. Howe was Mr. Hockey.

As famous as he became, Gordie remained humble.

Arnold Palmer won many golf tournaments. Along the way, he popularized golf in ways it had never been popularized. His winning ways, and his winsome smile and swashbuckling golf style, made him a hit with advertisers.

A key to Arnold’s passion for the game as well as his love of people can be attributed to his father, Deke, who taught him to respect fans because they were the same as he was.

It should be mandatory for anyone becoming the head of an organization to study the examples of Gordie Howe or Arnold Palmer, not simply to get a taste of their competitive fires, but more to learn how to act “normal” when everyone wants a piece of you.

First posted on SmartBrief.com on 7/28/2017

VIDEO: Thinking Positively of Others

What’s the secret to a long-term relationship?

“Overlooking the negative and focusing on the positive,” says Helen Fisher, a best-selling author on relationships and a fellow at the Kinsey Institute.

Speaking on “The Diane Rehm Show,” Fisher says that brain scans of couples averaging 20 years revealed the parts of the brain that were active were those linked to empathy, self-control, and an ability to overlook negative, that is, “positive illusions.”

Maintaining “positive illusions” is an outlook that leaders can employ.

Leaders should look on bright side as a means of giving people hope. By nature such hope is rooted in a leader’s faith in his or her followers. It is an affirmation therefore of people for whom the leader is responsible.

None of us is perfect and everyone will, from time to time, do stupid things. Better then to assume the better nature of an individual who reports to you.

When a leader finds something negative, and which threatens organizational harmony, it is time to become involved. Dissent over issues is a positive; it encourages freedom of thought. Dissension over people that undermines the effectiveness of a leader cannot be tolerated.

A leader who can put aside petty slights in order to achieve intended goals is worthy of respect and followership.

First posted on SmartBrief.com on 9/01/2107

VIDEO: 3 Tips for Discovering Yourself

It is necessary to know what you are and what you can do. Sounds simple, but too often we don’t take the time – or, more precisely – make the time to understand our role.

In my coaching practice I work with executives to help them define their leadership selves. Here are three questions that can help you, too.

  • What do I do well? Consider your core competency — what you do for your job. Then think about the skills you execute to complete your job duties. Beyond competency consider how you interact with people.
  • Where do I need help and why? Tough question, certainly. How well do you serve your team? Think about what you may be avoiding because you don’t want to do it, don’t like to do it, or feel incompetent in doing it?
  • How can I better serve my colleagues? Focus on what other people need from you. Are you fulfilling their needs? It doesn’t hurt, and in fact, it may be wise to check what you think you are with what others are receiving? Is there alignment?

These questions are thought-starters; they serve as a means to an end of discovering what you do best and how you can continue to do it.

First posted on SmartBrief.com on 8/11/2107

VIDEO: You Oughta Be in Sales

Is there any business process more despised than sales?

But if sales is held in such low esteem, then how are customers supposed to come to us? Do they magically appear like Christmas presents under the tree?

Sales is that five-letter word no one wants to mention. Too bad. All of us need to be in sales. What you are selling is YOU.

So if are not selling, it means you lack faith in self and faith in what you can do to help others.

Re-framing sales then means re-thinking what you do. Very basically, consider sales as everything you do for a client — service, execution, follow up and re-engaging the process.

Selling your commitment is something that anyone with whom you work with can appreciate. Ultimately, sales is a reflection of your and your work. Use it to your best advantage.

First posted on SmartBrief.com on 7/14/2017

VIDEO: 3 Ways to Turn Pain into Laughs

Humor emerging from pain is man’s way of coping with something that hurt you. Some people would turn that pain into rage; others turn it into a catalyst for self-improvement. Comedians turn that pain into gold.

Humor is one way to deal with the challenges facing you. So here are some ideas you can employ to laugh at the world around you and, in the process, feel better about what you do and the people you work with.

As you build your humorous story follow these three steps.

  1. Choose your pain. Think about a situation in which you made a mistake. Employing the Lenny Bruce rule (“Pain plus time equals humor.”), allow some time to have passed. Think about what went wrong and why.
  2. Make yourself a target. Focus on what you did. What were you thinking? Why were you thinking it? And most important don’t forget to mention what you did that was so mistaken.
  3. Go for the laugh. Exaggerate the aspects of yourself — looks, habits, and behaviors. Could these be sources of humor when played to extreme. For example, are you someone who ignores details or do you like to dive into the weeds? Pick your type and play it up.

Take a moment to reflect on the past and turning it into a source of laughter can be therapeutic. You may help you and your team feel better about the work you do.

First posted on SmartBrief on 6/30/2017

How Good Leaders Correct Mistakes (HBR)

Carlos Gomez, the rookie centerfielder for the Minnesota Twins in 2008, scooped up the ball and threw so hard to second base that the throw ended up being fielded in the dugout by Ron Gardenhire, his manager. So what did Gardenhire do when the rookie returned to the dugout? He asked him to autograph the ball. Gomez “is a kid who plays with a lot of emotion,” Gardenhire told the New York Times, “If I kick him there, I might lose him for the rest of the game.” Gomez appreciated his manager’s gesture, but “knew what he did wrong, and it didn’t affect him the rest of the game.” Indeed not. Gomez later homered.

Pick your moments! That’s what good coaches do when they want to correct a player’s mistake. It is also good advice for anyone in a leadership position. Flying off at the handle when someone makes a mistake might be theatrical but it’s not really practical. It may make the manager feel good to vent, but the effect on the employee may be counter-productive. So the next time your employee makes a mistake, consider three things:

Why did the mistake occur? New employees often make mistakes because they don’t know better; veterans make mistakes because they’re not paying attention. Neither is acceptable. Managers need to make certain their employees know their jobs and keep work relevant for others so that they maintain focus.

How can the employee correct the mistake? If the employee knows he’s made a mistake, just let it sink in. If the manager shows he’s upset, the opportunity to teach is lost. If the employee doesn’t know he’s made a mistake, then let him know sooner than later. Have discussions with the employee about what went wrong and how he will correct things the next time.

How can you turn this mistake into a learning lesson? Sweeping the mistake under the rug increases the likelihood it will happen again; shining light on the problem may illuminate new solutions. One mistake can open the door to dialogue. Invite the employee to discuss her needs for more development. Perhaps she can design an improvement plan. Also, the manager may need to become more involved in the employee’s development, either personally or by assigning another employee to help. 

Let’s be realistic. When things go wrong, the manager is responsible regardless of why the mistake happened. So when the mistake occurs, it’s understandable he might be upset. Showing emotion is acceptable. In fact it can be used to make a point. Employees need to know that mistakes can be tolerated but must be fixed; failure to acknowledge them will lead to mediocrity.

Waiting for the heat of the moment to pass allows for reflection, giving the employee time to consider what he’s done and how he can make it better. The manager demonstrates trust and that trust gives the employee the confidence to know he can succeed next time.

First posted on HBR.org 7/24/2008